Without knowing it at the time, the Christmas of 1986 provided me with one of the most special memories I’ve collected during my thirty years of life. It was the last Christmas I had with my Momo, my paternal grandmother, and it is the earliest Christmas memory that I can recall.
It started off like any other Christmas; I woke to the smell of lunch being prepared. As it is in my household, Thanksgiving and Christmas meals are both labors of love. These meals are started in the early hours of the day, even before children full of anticipation have woken from their holiday dreams, and seem to be ready at the perfect point in the day.
With the meal baking in the oven and cooking on the stove, I found my way into the living room to stare at the tree and to surreptitiously search for presents labeled for me. As tempting as it was, I found a way to refrain from touching anything, but I did see one box that had a special pull on me. While it may not have been as big as the others under the tree, there was something about it, something that called to me and stayed in my thoughts through the morning and during our family lunch.
After every appetite was satisfied, we moved into the living room. This may or may not have been the year “Santa Claus” rang our doorbell with a few gifts he forgot to leave during his overnight visit, but I know this was the year that I opened a present and found not only the thing I’d wanted most all year, but the thing that would stay with me for the rest of my life.
As the presents were passed around the room, the sound of laughter and joy could be found intermingled with the sounds of wrapping paper being torn off of carefully wrapped packages. When the object of my attention finally made it into my hands, it took everything I had in me to not rip off the paper like a wild person, especially when I saw my grandparents watching me open the present.
I finally removed the paper and what stared back at me was something I’d been eyeing during every trip to the store and every time we received a department store catalog in the mail. I’d finally been given a Cabbage Patch doll, the one thing I wanted most as a six-year old.
While the children of today may not find as much joy in receiving a Cabbage Patch doll, it was a great pleasure to me. It was also the last present my Momo would ever pick out for me; she unexpectedly died 3 months later.
Nobody ever knew how much this one simple gift meant to me. My sister, born after our Momo passed away, definitely didn’t know. But maybe this story will explain to her why I became so upset upon finding the doll defaced by her young hands. She didn’t know any better, she was only a kid and I was only a teenager trying to hold on to a memory of my childhood. Only with age have I realized that it wasn’t the doll that made the holiday special, it was the memories that we made and that I will hold on to for the rest of my lifetime.